USA tells court migrant families may not be reunited by deadline

07 July, 2018, 08:51 | Author: Carlos George
  • HHS Secy Pushes Back on Reports of Mass Confusion in Reuniting Migrant Families

DNA cheek swab tests on parent and child take almost a week to complete, said White, who called the risk of placing children with adults who aren't their parents "a real and significant child welfare concern".

A federal judge gave the government until Tuesday to reunite children younger than 5 years old with their parents; older minors must be reconnected with their families by July 26. "We have a plan in place to get this job done", he said.

On Thursday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said fewer than 3,000 children are believed to have been separated, but that includes kids who may have lost parents along the journey, not just parents who were detained at the border. "You've taken a child from the parent".

More than 2,300 children, around 100 of them under the age of five, were separated from their families as a outcome of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy that saw their parents prosecuted for illegally crossing the border, even if they did so to seek asylum.

The government "is seeking more time in instances where officials are struggling to match children to parents", according to court records filed by the Justice Department.

The administration says federal law requires it to ensure that children are safe - and that, it contended, calls for more time.

Trump reversed course on June 20 amid an global outcry, saying families should remain together.

During a court hearing Friday afternoon, Judge Dana Sabraw ruled that parents who had already been removed from the country prior to his injunction blocking President Donald Trump's family separation policy must still be reunited with their children.

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But due to those missing records, the Health and Human Services department has been plunged into a chaotic process to determine which children were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border, and which arrived in the country unaccompanied.

The court hearing-part of a dramatic legal battle between the American Civil Liberties Union and the administration-followed Sabraw's order last week requiring the government to quickly reunite separated families.

The filing contained a description of steps undertaken by Health and Human Services to comply with the court order including deploying 115 additional personnel to the field, and contracting with 100 reunification managers who are deploying Friday and Saturday. In addition to DNA testing to verify parentage, the government said it would need to perform a criminal history check, and has reviewed 300 adults with about 1,400 more to go.

Falcon, communications director for RAICES, a nonprofit in Texas that offers free and low-priced legal services to immigrants and refugees, called the move deplorable because collecting such sensitive data would allow the government to conduct surveillance on the children "for the rest of their lives".

Without the family identification numbers to connect them, immigrant parents and their children appear in federal computers as individuals with separate cases and no relation to one another.

Guadian also said children under 5 are detained in 23 facilities across 13 states.

Going forward, the DOJ says that it intends to detain families together in immigration custody - a solution it argues complies with both Sabraw's order as well as the Flores Agreement, a court settlement that limits the amount of time children can be held in immigration detention.

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